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I Could Brave Bad Weather

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It's Wednesday night -- well, technically, it's Thursday now, as the bright green numbers of the clock on her car's dashboard turn to 12:00 and Troy and Abed cheer. Annie chuckles and blushes and retrieves her purse from the floor by Abed's feet.


The December air is cold and dry, and Annie clutches her coat closed around her throat as Troy and Abed lead her to the door. The bouncer just inside actually asks for an I.D. this time and she hands it over -- her own I.D. -- and can't suppress a proud little smile as if she deserves some accolades for having made it to the ripe old age of twenty-one. The man runs it through a machine and wishes her a happy birthday, and as Troy and Abed go through the same process behind her, Annie thinks of Caroline Decker, tucked safely into her bedside drawer now.


She finds a table easily. The bar isn't exactly booming at midnight on a Wednesday. Troy carries her a shot of something green, and she raises her eyebrows at it doubtfully, but it tastes like mint chocolate and Abed brings her another when she declares it delicious. There's a free shot of something brown from the bartender and Annie eyes it and asks for a soda to chase it down before she clenches her eyes shut and throws it back.


Troy and Abed cheer again.




It's Thursday night. They're all having dinner at a steakhouse and Pierce is paying, so everyone eats beef except for Britta who orders pasta. Three bottles of wine disappear between the seven of them, only slightly crowded around a table meant for six. An enormous slice of chocolate cake is brought out to the table by their waitress with a burning candle perched on top, protected from the breeze created as she walks by an upside-down wine glass. Annie, stuffed full from her meal, insists that everyone have some too and a few minutes later all that's left is a half-burned candle and some sad-looking melted ice cream in the middle of seven people rubbing their stomachs.


Annie can't see the amount on the check when it's brought to Pierce, but she knows it's the nicest dinner she's had since she was seventeen and she thanks him again before casting a pointed glance around the table and everyone else follows suit, even Jeff. They all manage to lift themselves out of their chairs, groaning, and their waitress bids them a cheery goodnight as the group files out. Jeff is behind Annie, and Annie could swear the waitress has an extra-bright smile for him, and she's redheaded and pretty and was charming and witty at the table, but Jeff only says a curt thanks back and follows Annie through the door.


It's not as cold tonight and Annie lets her coat hang open, swinging her arms at her sides in merriment before Shirley wraps her up in a combination birthday/goodnight hug. Next is Britta, and then Pierce, and then Jeff, who smooths a hand over her hair once while she's in his arms and then another when she pulls away. Annie's cheeks feel flushed from wine and pleasure, and she's sure there's something to say about this, about the occasion of her twenty-first birthday, but neither of them forgets that Troy and Abed are still there and she's not sure what there is to be said anyway.


Troy drives her car home, and the three of them sing along to the Barenaked Ladies the whole way.




It's Friday night. Annie is curled up in her bed reading Gone With the Wind again, in her coziest Greendale sweatpants and a pair of pink socks she found abandoned in the basement laundry room of their building. She had left a sign up about them for an entire week but no one ever came knocking on their door looking for them, and they were probably the coziest thing she'd ever had on her feet, even if it was the closest she'd ever come to stealing something.


The socks make no sound on the kitchen linoleum when she gets up for a glass of milk. When Annie is almost at the refrigerator, she manages to stop just right so that she slides right up to it like Tom Cruise in Risky Business. With her full glass, she leans her ear in the direction of the Dreamatorium to hear a few intermittent taps and thuds, then strolls back to her room, enjoying the relative silence of her new neighborhood.


Annie falls asleep before Scarlett kills the Yankee deserter, her glass still containing an inch or so of milk.




It's Saturday night. Annie's unnaturally curly hair bounces as she plops herself sullenly onto her bed. She's always known that New Year's Eve is rife with overinflated expectations, but she wasn't quite prepared for her first one at legal drinking age to be quite such a colossal disappointment. At this point she'd rather be Britta, stuck working a dinner shift at her new restaurant job. At least she'd be making money, Annie muses, picking at the threadbare comforter underneath her.


Annie kicks off her shoes, leaving them on the floor next to her bed as she shuts herself in the bathroom to wash off her make-up. She thinks of Jeff at a party in some club with ticket prices he knew she and her roommates couldn't afford, which is probably why he even mentioned it to them willingly. Every bar in town without an exorbitant cover fee is at capacity, which is why it's five minutes to midnight and Jeff is probably scoping out a blonde to kiss and she's scrubbing her face with a terrycloth headband holding back the hair she had spent an hour on that afternoon.


Annie's back in her bedroom, placing her shoes in their proper home on her shoe tree, when Abed calls to her from the kitchen. She pads in, barefoot and barefaced and still in her party dress and somehow exhausted. Troy and Abed have a bottle of cheap sparkling wine. They're wearing party hats and Troy holds out a third one for her. When midnight strikes, they all cheer. Annie pecks both of them on the lips, and sort of wonders if they'll kiss each other too, but they just do their little handshake and splash some sparkling wine onto the floor.


They finish the bottle, and tonight Annie falls asleep curled up next to Abed in his chair.




It's Sunday night, which is the one night a week that Troy and Abed have agreed not to spend together so they won't get sick of each other. Abed's staying in the blanket fort to catch up on some editing and Troy's putting on his coat to go out when Annie impulsively asks if she can come.


They go to a sports bar, practically the only place open on New Year's Day, and watch the Giants play the Cowboys. Annie keeps asking questions about the rules and Troy answers them a lot more patiently than she would have expected, though one other patron turns around looking annoyed at one point until he gets a look at Annie. Then a slow, sleazy smile slides across his face and Annie quickly clutches Troy's hand until the other man turns away.


It's not until she sees a familiar tall silhouette come inside, shaking the snow off his coat, that Annie remembers they're in Jeff's neighborhood. He joins them because why wouldn't he, and thankfully takes the empty seat between Annie and her admirer. Jeff doesn't really watch the game that closely, but he answers a few of Annie's questions anyway, and as his skin and clothes lose the chill of the Colorado winter he carried in with him, Annie finds herself moving into his side. Jeff buys her a screwdriver -- a delayed birthday drink, he tells her -- and surveys the surroundings with only mild distaste.


Annie doesn't ask how his New Year's Eve was, and half an hour later he gets a text and bids them goodbye with a crooked grin on his way out the door.




Monday night it's still snowing, and Troy and Abed have brought their flashlights outside to continue work on their snow fort outside the building after it gets dark. Annie is removing her winter outerwear after finally having given up on any illusion that they're waterproof or have any ability to keep her warm after two hours in the snow. Her Greendale sweatpants are freshly laundered and sitting on top of a neat pile waiting to be put away. Gone With the Wind is still sitting on her bedside table. Annie gazes at these two things for a moment before noticing her New Year's Eve dress on a hanger dangling off the knob of her closet door. The dress no one saw but her two roommates, who are currently trying to build a snow fort big enough for both of them to stand up in.


Annie puts on the dress, twists her damp hair into a neat chignon, and leaves before she can change her mind. She drives around with some vague idea of finding a sophisticated bar full of beautiful people like the one where Ryan Gosling found Emma Stone in Crazy, Stupid, Love, but Greendale doesn't really have a bar like that. Instead she finds herself in the bar at the Hilton, Greendale's only nice hotel. There's a little bit of snow inside her shoes by the time Annie gets inside, but she tries to ignore it and stroll in confidently, the way she imagines Britta would. For a brief moment she considers calling Britta and inviting her for a drink, but instantly decides against it.


Annie orders a glass of red wine, choosing one at random but trying to sound like she knows what she's talking about. The bartender cards her anyway and for a moment Annie wishes she had taken a moment to grab Caroline Decker from her bedroom. She probably wouldn't have presented Caroline's I.D. as her own, but Caroline would be more comfortable sitting by herself in a bar than Annie Edison was. The wine arrives and Annie sips it slowly, trying not to admit to herself that she has no idea why she's come here.


Her phone vibrates with a text from Abed wanting to know where she is. Not quite knowing how to answer yet, Annie instead opens Words With Friends on her phone and takes her turn on her updated games: Claire from her creative writing class, Dean Pelton, Jeff. There are only a few other people in the bar and no one seems to be making any moves towards engaging her in conversation but she keeps her phone out anyway, flipping through different applications and seeing that her roommates have also taken to Facebook and Twitter to discern her whereabouts, sending out a social media version of an APB.


When she goes back to Words With Friends, Jeff's joined in the hunt through the chat function, though his message focuses mostly on the facts that Troy has called him three times and that she clearly has her phone because she just played GELD. Annie's been gone a little over an hour. She drains her wine glass, orders another, and responds to Jeff with the address of the hotel before playing DUTCH for twenty-four points.


Twenty minutes later she's convinced herself that he's just passed the information on to Troy and Abed and her roommates will be striding in any moment, or they'll just wait for her to come home now that they know she hasn't been kidnapped by their shoe-loving landlord. But then Jeff is sitting next to her, ordering a drink, acting as if there's nothing unusual about finding her here alone in a hotel bar. They finish their game of Words With Friends side by side and Annie thrashes Jeff even more soundly than usual, which only lends more credence to her suspicion that he uses some kind of cheat function when no one's looking.


He doesn't mention the dress, but he does buy her another drink.




Troy and Abed rent Pleasantville for her on Tuesday night and they stay in to watch it. There are two bottles of pink wine in the refrigerator, which the three of them finish to the last drop, and Troy even sits on the floor for a while so Annie can have a recliner to herself. She feels cold though, and makes him rejoin her. Outside, the snow continues to fall.


She enjoys the night, but Annie makes a mental note not to ditch out on her roommates again.




Wednesday night, she ditches out on her roommates again.


Well, not really. Classes start again on Monday and Annie's put off her pre-reading for as long as she can without giving herself nervous shakes -- which is two days longer than last year, thank you very much -- but tonight's Dreamatorium activity, whatever it is, is several decibels louder than last Friday's. The snow has stopped so after contentiously leaving a note for Troy and Abed on the closed door of the Dreamatorium, she digs her car out of the parking lot and sets out, slightly sweaty, for a cafe she knows of a couple of miles away, longingly thinking of the currently-closed GCC library.


Annie orders a coffee when she arrives at the cafe, scanning the room for her ideal study spot as she waits. Her well-trained eye finds it immediately; an armchair next to a low table, in a fairly well-lit corner. There's another armchair opposite where Annie deposits her bag, but as she adds two sweeteners to her coffee and stirs, her gaze keeps flitting back towards that chair. It's fairly close to hers, so she doesn't have to strain to pull a book from inside, but also so that if someone tall enough were sitting in it right now, his knee might brush hers as he adjusted his posture, or she might be able to reach out and touch his leg for emphasis.


She reaches for her bag, but instead of pulling out her textbook for Biology 102, she pulls out her cell phone. Annie's thumb hovers over the button to open her text messages and even briefly the one to open Words With Friends, but instead she enters her address book. She scrolls to Jeff's name. And she calls him. He actually answers for once -- usually she gets his voice mail, which is ridiculous because everyone who spends any time with him knows his phone is always in his hands, so who does he think he's fooling by screening -- and says no, he's not available to meet her at the cafe right now.


Annie kicks at the leg of the other armchair, just a little. No one else notices. Before she can make an excuse and hang up, though, Jeff says he's free tomorrow if she wants to go to that Thai place by her apartment.


After hanging up, Annie settles comfortably into the armchair with her biology book and reflects that Caroline Decker can go suck it, because Annie Edison is doing twenty-one just fine on her own.